1.11 Seduction in F Major
1.11.1 Alenby and Ada in the Red Mercedes 650 SEX
Parking Garage, Simone de Beauvoir Airport
10 am Wednesday April 2 1987
Alenby woke to the bustle of the café with a feeling of relative well-being. He glanced at his watch. Amphetojolt! had done its job, woke him right on the dot and with reassuringly normal side effects: touch of nausea, disorientation, headache, the sensation of a snake slithering about one’s intestines only slightly more energetically than usual. Nothing a couple of half-cups of coffee couldn’t handle. He skimmed the Boissons menu. An Ethiopian Sidamo seemed a logical choice….
Coffee worked its customary magic, and Alenby’s mood was further buoyed by the perception that the brew he was savoring came from one of Ethiopia’s finest beans. Its unique aftertaste, reminiscent of lemon peel rising to the nose, marked it unequivocally as a product, not simply of Sidamo, but of Sidamo’s relatively prestigious Yergacheffe district. He put down the empty cup with regret tempered by the expectation of savoring that blissful aftertaste for some minutes or hours to come. This was the occasion for a generous tip if there ever was one. Humming to himself the melody of De’ miei bollenti spiriti from Act II of "La Traviata," he drew out his wallet and thumbed through it in search of a bill of a suitable denomination.
Suddenly he spotted a letter—an important letter—carelessly folded and nestling incongruously amongst his folding money. In the confusion of the U-to-u transition and all that, he had quite forgotten the letter, but now he recalled its content: Borstal Motors and Coachwrights Limited beg to advise that as per agreement .....the above-mentioned motor car.....Charles de Gaulle International Airport Level 3, slot X11. That was his Aero! Here was a chance to put one’s vacation back on track—Strasbourg, and tête de veau! Correction, make that Hoerdt, the world’s hub of white asparagus. Yes, restaurant La Charrue in Hoerdt meant white asparagus with the traditional three sauces and a man-sized glass of Riesling—a Grand Cru, naturally—and afterwards a heap of loosely folded paper-thin films of jambon cru with another glass of that generous yet bracing nectar. There wasn’t a second to lose!
In the instant those thoughts flashed through his mind he sprang to his feet, snatched up his flight bag and started for the stairs leading to the upper levels. Running out of the café, he pulled out his keys and selected the Aero’s. A waiter’s shout of protest prompted him to greater speed. He bounded up the stairs two at a time, brusquely pushing past anyone slow to get out of his way. Reaching the third level he at once spotted at the far end the sky-blue beauty with its unmistakable ground-hugging lines. His Borstal! Freedom! He sprinted the last fifty meters, rammed the key into the lock on the driver’s side, flung open the door—
He tried to throw himself into the bucket seat behind the steering wheel, but something blocked the way. Something smooth and massive—his hitherto missing valise!
He strained repeatedly to wrestle the balky object over the seat backs into the Aero’s luggage compartment, but it wouldn’t fit through the space under the custom ash-wood roll-bar. Defeated, he lay face down across the front seat and the valise, left hand gripping the steering wheel, breathing stertorously. If only he’d listened to the Borstal engineers and agreed to a steel roll bar, instead of insisting on the lighter but bulkier ash wood!
Suddenly he realized his pulse was thudding loud and fast—ka-punka ka-punka ka-punka. This is it, he thought, my first heart attack. He was due for one. Many of his contemporaries had had theirs already and were working on their second or third disabling arterial blockage, but he had been lucky so far. Or unlucky. Damnably unlucky, actually, to have one’s first heart attack in this universe where coronary health care—any sort of health care—seemed to be stuck in a primitive self-help mode, kook diet and exercise and all that sort of nonsense....
Ka-punka ka-punka ka-punka went his heart. He was only vaguely aware of other sounds: footsteps, voices.
He heard Ada close by, his nose picked up her body aroma (interesting bramble-fruit notes), and he felt her hands warm and strong under his jacket, vigorously massaging the back of his neck. "Good Gaea, Alenby," she exclaimed, "your muscles are all knotted up! Mmm, and what muscles—magnificent! Please try to loosen up. Relax! Don’t worry about that waiter you forgot to pay, I took care of him." Under her ministrations he relaxed and his pulse slowed. He let go of the steering wheel and lay limp, inhaling the aromas of the Aero’s premium-leather upholstery, while Ada continued to knead his back, meanwhile chattering gaily: "Of course I suspected you would check slot X11 on the off-chance of finding your stink-pot."
"It’s not a stink-pot, it’s a—"
"Borstal Aero. I saw the letter in your wallet. Fascinating antique, or is it a reconstruction? Whatever, it’s quite rare. With genuine pneumatic tires, too—interesting period touch."
Alenby started to protest that the Aero was of the newest model, of 1987 vintage in fact, with wide-track Michelins-- But Ada rattled on: Early in the Prohibition era, science warned of a global warming catastrophe caused primarily by the use of fossil fuels. Then as dictated by reason, traditional fossil-fueled vehicles, or stink-pots, were phased out in the 50s and 60s, and replaced by environment-friendly hycells—vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells and nowadays mounted on Michelin’s new soft-ride, stiff-cornering recyclable composite wheels, tweels as they were called. So much more pleasing to Gaea. But PROFATPOL still used the old stink-pots because they were faster….
Ada stopped kneading. "Well, that’s about all I can do for you massage-wise," she said with flirtatious emphasis.
"You didn’t really want to escape from me," she went on. "If you were keen to get away, why didn’t you simply would just jettison your valise? Or unpack it and simply dump the contents in the back?"
The question caught Alenby by surprise. For a start he never thought to get away from any person or place. His idea was rather to get to some place where he could relax and enjoy a nice lunch. Secondly, it had never occurred to him that one might travel without a valise systematically packed with clothes and back-up medical supplies. That was quite simply unthinkable….
He stood up, adjusted his shirt and jacket, and hauled his valise out of the Borstal. As soon as the opportunity offered he would go to it for a change of clothes. Also for a dose of one of the new meds he'd been meaning to try: Sanguineze, a muscle relaxant designed for natural stress reduction incorporating a custom-balanced cocktail of blood thinners to stave off any impending heart attacks, and a new powerful anti-cholesterol component to control those runaway LDLs. In the face of an apparent scarcity of sophisticated stents and multiple by-pass technology, it was absolutely no use being only half-safe.
"We can go in my car if you like," Ada said, indicating the tomato-red Mercedes 650 SEX coincidentally parked in the next slot, X12. She walked over to it with Alenby trailing, popped the trunk and tossed in her small travel backpack. "There’s plenty of room in there for your valise," she added with a laugh. "You’ll drive, okay?" Without waiting for his answer she swung open the front door and slid into the passenger seat.
Drive where? Alenby wondered dully as he stowed his valise and flight bag in the trunk. With no lunch of consequence in the offing, driving somewhere, anywhere, had lost its purpose. But without any less unattractive course in view, he might as well go through the motions, starting with the safety checks. First, tire inflation. But no sooner had he taken his pressure gauge from its place in his right-hand upper outer jacket pocket, when he was astonished to see the car did not have regular inflatable tires at all, just a thin track supported by stubby, flexible spokes. So this must be a tweel, or wheel tire combination, that Ada had mentioned. One recalled reading about the tweel as a concept, but here in u it seemed to be already standard equipment….
He got into the Mercedes, settled himself on the appetizingly buttery imitation leather of the driver’s seat. Brand new, he thought, delivered straight to the airport. No plates, just a number sticker in the rear window. Not stuck on straight, either—half peeled off, probably illegible from outside. Better fix that, he told himself.
But other, more pressing adjustments claimed his attention—steering wheel, seat, mirrors.... As a rule he rarely lavished thought of other things beside wine and food, but now his mind engaged on the prospect of piloting this hycell on tweels. With the crushing weight of the hydrogen fuel modules to carry, could tweels deliver on their potential for sharp cornering combined with a smooth ride?
Meanwhile he was vaguely aware of Ada beside him. She was flushed, excited about something, seemingly bursting to say whatever it was she had in the shopping bag resting there at her feet. Some trophy of the kind that enraptures the feminine heart, he surmised. A new hat, perhaps. He smirked tolerantly. Ah, the weaker sex! Best not to ask, let her bring up her little shopping exploits in her own way. Better focus on the car. He had read articles about the hydrogen-fueled electric cars or hycells, as they apparently called them in u, but he had never driven one.
"Your Mercedes," said Alenby, "it’s rather different from 650s I’m familiar with. Actually I've never come across any Mercedes in the SEX trim. A custom model?"
"It has some custom features," Ada said. Her voice had a shivery, breathless quality.
She took off her green fedora and flung it carelessly to the rear, and then her shopping bag. Alenby noticed a package sliding out of the bag and across the rear seat—a soberly-wrapped package, not at all of the kind associated with the world of fashion. Indeed, it bore the name not of a hat or dress boutique, but of a urology supply house on the Boulevard Saint-Germaine.
"Oh that," Ada said impatiently in response to his question, "that’s a pump."
"In case all else fails—" With that she put the toe of her hempen sandal to a panel half-hidden under the glove box, thereby summoning the genie of technology to create an interior conducive to seduction: darkened one-way windows, soft lights, a scent suggestive of opulence and erotic intrigue, music—Alenby recognized the voluptuous andante movement of Mozart’s piano concerto No 21, K 467—and a medium-firm bed made up of those luxuriously upholstered seat surfaces reconfigured horizontally.
Deprived of back support, he rolled rearwards. Ada tumbling beside him, laughing softly.... Her "all else," though pursued with the vigor and artistry associated with actress Linda Lovelace and courtesan Madame du Barry, respectively, indeed failed. She reached for the pump, and nature, aided by that device, ran its otherwise normal course.
1.11.2: Alenby's Vision
Parking Garage, Simone de Beauvoir Airport
10:30 am Wednesday April 2 1987
Amorous rituals enacted and seats restored to their normal configuration, Alenby returned to his study of the car’s instrument cluster and controls, idly tapping his plump white fingers on the steering wheel in the heavy-breathing rhythm of the Mozart andante. Odd that he’d never noticed the erotic element of that piece. Perhaps it had been that steady pulse, wreathed in hushed tones of yearning and ardor, that had set those fingers to caress Ada's erogenous parts in a manner she seemed to find satisfactory....
Meanwhile, Ada gave every indication of satisfaction. "A memento of a delightful occasion," she purred, taking pictures. "And it's not over yet. Six aftershocks over force three, and—ooh, there’s another!" Quickly replacing her Compulocket, she put her arms around his neck and kissed him rapturously.
Nice to be appreciated, he thought, but the pump deserved most of the credit. Remarkably effective gizmo, simple, and no off-putting systemic side-effects—no dizziness, hair loss or blindness, none as yet of any of that sort of thing. Also, blessedly free from the discomforts attending the various locally-injectible virility enhancers recommended for the courageous or pain-tolerant. Admittedly, over-engorgement could be a problem with the pump, but a simple solution was right there in the manual: to relieve pressure, grasp knurled base ring A, depress tab B and rotate in the direction of arrow C. Quite simple, really, and absolutely no need to call 911, or whatever you call in u in cases of emergency.
He glanced at Ada, ash-blond curls plastered to the cheek still pink from their romp, and he felt a passing touch of affection for her. And another satisfactory outcome, his flannel slacks had come through the whole thing only slightly rumpled. For a moment all seemed well with the universe.
But such euphoria fades fast upon the faintest perception of a loftier peak of happiness in the offing, and that is what happened to Alenby when his eager mind sorted out a particularly bewitching component of the primordial scent of feminine lubricity that emanated from his finger-tips....
Suddenly his mind was flooded with a vision of ultimate beauty—oyster!
Oyster, specifically a platter of sumptuous green-tinted freshly shucked fines de claire out of the pristine waters of the Marennes, flanked by a bedewed bottle—a regular 75 cl bottle—of slightly over-chilled Chablis....
The vision collapsed, and reality hit him--locked in a prison, a comfortable discreet love nest in the company of a beautiful eager tactful woman, admittedly, but a prison none the less--when by all rights he ought to be confidently considering the prospect of bellying up to a dozen of those unctuous beauties, stuff of one's dreams....
Sick at heart, he turned his attention to the task at hand, driving the Mercedes 650 SEX. The instrument cluster was entirely different from what he was used to--in fact, there was no instrument cluster, just a single monitor screen. No surprise there. This was an electric car, everything fly-by-wire, computerized. But why the clutch pedal and gear lever?
Ada explained that those controls, along with a cabin engine-sound simulator, made up the SSS or Stinkpot Simulation System, an option package for those drivers who felt nostalgically attached to the noise, inconvenience and health / environmental hazards associated with the now outmoded internal combustion power plant, and she offered to enable these or any other of a large number of options that he might care to choose.
Alenby opted for the entire SSS package, with the SSS toggle initially set to OFF. Ada checked one option of her own--GPS disabled for privacy. She touched SAVE, and they were ready to go.
Moments later the tomato-red Mercedes 650 SEX hycell emerged from the shadows of the parking garage into the thin sunshine of the spring morning.